BOURBON — Triton’s girls basketball team made several goals at the start of the season. Among those, the Lady Trojans set themselves objectives to reach 15 wins and to win a conference championship.
On their last home game of the year Friday, they ticked both off their list.
Class A No. 7 Triton grabbed a 39-35 lead with a 4-0 finish to a 16-8 third quarter, then held off visiting LaVille down the stretch for a 51-47 Senior Night victory that clinched a three-way tie for the Northern State Conference championship along with Bremen and New Prairie.
“I pointed out to them that there aren’t too many teams that get the opportunity to have their basketball team recognized on a banner,” said Triton head coach Adam Heckaman of his pre-game pep talk. “I know it’s co-champs, but when they come in here in 20 years and see 2012 on the conference championship banner, nobody’s going to know that, and it’s something that they’re going to be able to remember forever, it’s something that they can carry with them, and they can come back and see. We have eight now in however many years the school’s been in existence — 40-something. It’s a big thing for them, and I think they realize that, and I think it really showed in their intensity.”
Friday’s regular season closer was a match-up of contrasting styles as forward-laden LaVille pounded the ball inside and outworked Triton off the glass, and the guard-heavy Trojans tried to push the ball up the floor and create havoc with their zone press and halfcourt trap.
The Lady Lancers won the battle of the boards decisively with a 44-26 rebounding advantage but put up just 11 second-chance points off 13 offensive caroms. Triton’s press and trap defense flustered LaVille into 34 turnovers, meanwhile, which the Trojans capitalized off of with 22 points.
“We knew we were going to struggle with their size so our game plan was just to get out there and really try to cause havoc and it worked,” said Heckaman. “We missed a few of our layups or it might have been a little more comfortable at the end, but the bottom line is the kids stepped up at the end and made the plays and hit some free throws. Big win for us.
“They’ve got some size, and we don’t. We knew we were going to struggle with that. We knew if they got it down there and were able to get shots off they were probably going to be able to get rebounds so our goal was just to get out there and cause as much chaos as we could. The girls did a great job. They were in good shape; some of them played almost the whole game and still had enough left at the end to finish it off.”
“Turnovers were the difference in this game,” said LaVille head coach Kevin McCullough. “That’s it. You’ve got to play through the referees, you can’t whine about them. Once a team starts being aggressive and they’re hacking their way in there, you’ve got to jump a little to the ball. That’s the way basketball’s played, and our girls instead of jumping harder, they backed off. They were able to get some tips, they were a little quicker than us, and that’s how it came out.”
Triton jumped out to a 17-12 lead at the first quarter break, but the Lancers collected themselves with a 15-6 second quarter to take a 27-23 halftime lead. LaVille led by as much as five at 34-29 at the 4:10 stop of the third, but when star forward Jesse Feitz — who put up a game-high 22 points in her third outing in the last five games with 20-plus points — was momentarily sidelined with her third foul at the 4:04 mark, the opportunistic Trojans held the Lancers silent from the field to close out the period 10-1, including a 4-0 mini run in the final 30 seconds courtesy of a Shana Anderson putback and a pull up from the lane by Mallorie Jennings, and pull ahead 39-34 headed into the final stanza. LaVille cut that lead to one point five different times in the fourth but never pulled ahead as Triton knocked down 8 of 9 free throws in the frame to hold off the Lancers for the effective NSC championship win.
“The first half there was a point where she was out and we were able to really take it at them, then in that third quarter there where we got the lead back there in that stretch,” said Heckaman of Feitz. “She’s big. She’s very valuable to them. With her playing the way she is, I wouldn’t want to play them in sectional. They’re playing well; they’re getting done what they need to get done for the most part. If they tighten up those turnovers and continue to get the ball to her, that’s a team I wouldn’t want to see again.”
“Any team when their best player goes out then it’s an uphill battle. She was on a roll in that game, she was doing a good job. We had to play four minutes without her, and that was a long time to play,” said McCullough.
“We go to her every chance we get. She certainly hooped it up out there and did her part. She got back and handled the ball when we needed her to. She was playing well and she just had an ankle sprain and her first few games back she played when her ankle wasn’t healed 100 percent as a lot of kids will do. She’s a tough kid, and now she’s healed up more and she hooped it up the best she could.”
While Feitz did the lion’s share of LaVille’s scoring, Triton saw balanced production from Jennings, Kylie Mason and Taylor Hatfield with nine points apiece, Anderson with a double-double of 14 points to go with 11 rebounds, and lone Trojans senior Megan Howdeshell with eight points.
“That’s the nice thing about this team. You never know who’s going to be the leading scorer, but you know that we have plenty of options out there that can step up and score,” Heckaman said. “When one of them starts hitting sometimes all of them start. It’s hard for teams I think to guard that. You can focus on one, but when Taylor is going to the basket, gets to the free throw line, starts knocking her jump shots down, Kylie, all of the guards up and down, and then having Megan down there to clean things up, it’s hard to guard that.”
Triton closes regular season play at 15-5 overall and 6-1 in the NSC with their fifth straight win. The Trojans drew the bye at Class A Sectional 51 at Oregon-Davis and will play the winner of Tuesday’s opener between South Central (Union Mills) and No. 10 Argos in the early semifinal Friday at 6:30 p.m. EDT.
LaVille finishes the regular season with a 6-14 overall mark and 3-4 NSC record. The Lancers also drew a bye at Class 2A Sectional 35 at Westview and will face the winner of Tuesday’s opener between Fremont and Central Noble at 6 p.m. EST.
• TRITON 51,
Score by quarters
LaVille: 12 27 35 47
Triton: 17 23 39 51
LaVILLE (47): Kelsey Gurtner 1 3-4 5, Zoe Bulick 0 0-0 0, McKenzie Leed 0 1-2 1, Kyla Coblentz 1 2-2 5, Jesse Feitz 9 4-4 22, Hannah Herbster 2 1-2 6, Lynae Hostrawser 1 2-5 4, Amanda Carbiener 1 1-1 4; Totals: 15 14-20 47.
TRITON (51): Taylor Hatfield 3 2-3 9, Breanna Lemler 1 0-0 2, Krystal Sellers 0 0-0 0, Kylie Mason 3 2-2 9, Mallorie Jennings 3 3-4 9, Shana Anderson 3 7-10 14, Megan Howdeshell 3 2-2 8; Totals: 16 16-21 51.
3-pointers: LaVille 3 (Coblentz, Herbster, Carbiener), Triton 3 (Hatfield, Mason, Anderson); Turnovers: LaVille 34, Triton 9; Rebounds: LaVille 44 (Gurnter 10), Triton 26 (Anderson 11); Steals: LaVille 3 (Gurtner, Coblentz, Feitz), Triton 15 (Anderson 4); Assists: LaVille (Feitz 2), Triton 10 (Anderson 4); Fouls (fouled out): LaVille 17 (none), Triton 16 (none).
Records: LaVille 6-14 (3-4 NSC), Triton 15-5 (6-1 NSC)